Bert Krak


Bert Krak needs no introduction.
In his own words, Bert does tattoos that look like tattoos – As you’re about to find out.
Bert tattoos at Smith St. Tattoo Parlour, Brooklyn, U.S.A. and is our latest feature tattooer, if you’re in the area, go down and get a tattoo!

Bert Krak,thslfe


Thanks for you time Bert, what’s been happening?

Just keeping busy,  between my family, tattooing,  machine bulding and painting i don’t have much down time.

For those who are unfamiliar with you and what you do, can you tell us a bit about yourself and walk us through your typical day?

I was born July 12, 1977 in Hollywood , Florida. I met my wife in 1995 and in 1996 we had our first son, since then i’ve had 3 more kids.
My first day full time tattooing was labour day 2000.  In 2003 we moved to Queens, New York,  in 2005 i got the shop i was working at and changed the name to Top Shelf Tattooing.
In 2008 me and Steve  Boltz opened Smith Street Tattoo Parlour in Brooklyn.

My day starts around 7 am. with taking my kids to school. After i get back home, breakfast with my wife and then around 10 or 11 i head off to work. I usually get home around 10,  i’ve been working 6 days a week my entire career. Sundays are my family day.

What initially got you involved in art, and how did that lead you in to becoming a tattooer?

I drew a little when i was a kid. I didn’t start really focusing on art until i started learning to tattoo.

Bert Krak,thslfe

Favourite medium to work with apart from tattooing ?

Painting, with watercolors and liquid acrylics.

Who taught you to tattoo, and how have they had any effect on your style today?

In 98 i started my apprentiship with Danny Knight at Rockabilly Tattoo in Lauderhill, Florida and about a year later  he moved to Las Vegas . In ’99 Dave Poole bought the shop from Danny and shorly after  started teaching me how to tattoo . They both to this day influence me, they are both great tattooers  and business men.

You have an amazingly clean and simple style, yet your tattoos speak volumes.How did you develop your style, and do you ever like to stray from it?Has your tattooing style evolved from when you began?

I just always liked tattoos that looked like tattoos. I knew in the beginning i wanted to do tattoos that looked tough. In my 10 years tattooing the only difference from the beginning is i tattoo alot cleaner and i have alot more reference.
Bert Krak,thslfe

I guess you could say Tattoo’s have become accepted in today’s society, possibly even expected,  obviously there being more people for you to tattoo is a good thing, but do you think there is a downside to it?

Not really, the more people getting tattooed the better it is for my and my family.

How do you think certain “reality” tattoo shows on TV have affected tattooing on a broad scale?

Who cares?

What other tattooers do you think are really out there pushing the boundaries?

Everyone at Smith Street and Top Shelf  obviously. Mike Wilson, Richard Stell and Bob Roberts are three  of my all time favorites.

What are five things that you always pack with you on your travels?

Clothes, tooth brush, deodorant, 2 pairs of kicks and some money.

Bert Krak,thslfe

No doubt you have seen some pretty fucked tattoo’s in your time, what is the worst tattoo you’ve ever seen?

I see so many on a day to day basis that i wouldn’t know how to answer this question.

What was your first tattoo, and who did it?

I hand poked my first one on my ankle when i was 15 in the bathroom at my Grandparents house. It’s a “mom” tat. The ‘o’ is a heart.

Bert Krak,thslfe

What inspires you to create?

I’m inspired by my family and closest friends. I want to be the best.

What’s in your pockets right now?

Nothing . I’m only wearing underwear.

What have you been reading, listening to and watching lately?

New York Post, Wu-Tang  and Lost.

We live in turbulent times, what are your views on the world and society today?


Bert Krak,thslfe

Advice to up and coming artists?

Get a new job.  Tattooing is way too overpopulated. If you insist on continuing to tattoo save all your money and get tattooed by me.

Anything coming up that we should know about?
Bob Roberts and myself are having a gallery show in Los Angeles on July 31st at Known Gallery. I’ve been working extra hard on painting for this show.

Bert Krak,thslfe

Word association, you know the deal, say whatever comes to your mind when you read the word.


Australia – My favorite place i’ve never been to

Kevin Rudd – Don’t know who that is

America – My country
Obama – My president
England – Fish and chips
The Queen – My wife
Tattoo – My profession
Religion – Waste of time
Time – Not enough
Greed – Go for yours
Humanity – Evolution
Peace – The symbol i tattoo on people from time to time.
Freedom – U.S.A
Art – Ky shit
Life – My family
Happiness – Relaxation

Where can people follow what you’re up to and view your work?




Bert Says:

Don’t bite. Be original. No monkey business.

Bert Krak,thslfe

Uncovered//Rose Whittaker

As you have probably come to gather, we’ve introduced another new segment here at This Life. Over the coming weeks you will see new faces, new segments and features and a fresh new look to adorn your screens – It’s about time we lifted our game and stepped thing up a notch or two!

There are so many artists out there right now that should be making a living out of their work, but for what ever reason, haven’t had the opportunity or can’t take that illusive next step, This Life, is all about promoting art and creative practice – Whatever the genre.
I initially came across Rose’s work upon sailing the deep and dirty depths that are commonly referred to as Myspace, and immediately got in contact with her, after a few days deliberating how i should present the feature, Uncovered came to be.

When you speak with Rose you soon realise how dedicated and passionate about tattooing she really is, it’s gives me a warm feeling inside to see that there are still people wanting to break in to the Tattoo industry for more than the fame and glory that a TV show may offer, people who are genuinely passionate about the Art and History behind it all.

If there are any shops in London looking for a dedicated and insanely talented artist to apprentice, hit Rose up here. – Oh and for those of you who don’t aren’t looking for an apprentice, go check out and buy some of Rose’s prints, who doesn’t want this shit hanging in their living room?
Rose Whittaker,thslfe

Firstly, thanks for your time, what’s been happening

Thanks for noticing me via Myspace haha. Well life is hectic as hell at the moment, i’m currently about to make the big move from my sleepy suburb to London Town to follow the tattooing dream, it sounds cheesy i know but i gotta go where the opportunities are.

While we are speaking about tattooing in London, there seems to be a whole heap of shit hot tattooers coming out of there, how hard is it for you looking for an apprenticeship when there is such a rediculous amount of talented tattooists in one city?

Well i get the majority of my work done in London, mostly by the guys at Cult Classic in Romford and the lovely people at Jayne Doe in Hornchurch. I’ve been hanging out and bumming around there for years and thankfully have built up a good relationship with very talented artists up there who are lovely enough to give me great advise and knowledge.The thing about london is that it’s huge, for every amazing artist there are atleast 5 shit ones!
I’m kinda optimistic about getting an apprenticeship as there is a higher concentration of shops and i do work my ass off so i’m hoping it all pays off, i’m under no illusions though, i’ve got a lot more hard work to do I just hope someone will give me the chance.

Yeah for sure, no doubt about it you’ve got some drawing skills! When did you initially become interested in art, and at what point did you decide to persue art, or tattooing as a career?

Art is the only constant thing in my life. I’ve always been around it, my grandma paints, my dads a draftsman and it’s the only thing i’ve ever considered myself to be remotely good at haha, it’s also my medium for venting any kind of emotion, i think i’d literally go insane without my paintbrushes! As for tattooing i think my introduction to it came through my love of punk rock. Growing up in that kinda of scene loving those kinds of bands you can’t help but notice the body art, i got my first tattoo at 14 and it’s awful, after getting that done i thought “Hey i can do better! I’m gonna look more into this.”

It’s such a huge tradition with a rich past and i just fell in love with it, the respect, passion and creativity just amazes me and i want to be a part of it. You literally cant learn enough about tattooing, there are so many unsung heros and people who are quite content to keep their heads down and churn out amazing work i just wanna find them all!
Rose Whittaker,thslfe

You say you got your first tattoo at 14, what was it and who did it?Still got it?

Hahaha erm i do still have it, i do plan on getting it covered up at some point but it’s a love hate relationship. I love it ‘cos it’s my first, but i hate it cos it’s totally not the style i like now and i was uneducated at the time! It’s this tiny sacred heart with these blue tribal wings and some nautical stars, i did actully draw it myself, it’s not picked off the wall but the dude who did it in mylittle hometown properly scarred me, it’s a little raised and the colours patchy, ah well we all live and learn! Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, i thank my stars i didn’t get anything huge and awful that i can’t cover!

Speaking about your style, you do a lot of neo traditional drawings, are you in to anything else, or is that kind of the direction that you want to go?

Well the thing is i kinda paint whatevers in my head. I don’t really go for a ‘style’ as such but i do suppose it fits into that category. I’m attrached to bold lines, bright colour and little bits of detail that you dont notice at first glance, i have attempted some Japanese pieces but i think to do it properly you have to know the meanings behind the symbology and the tradition, i am endeavouring to learn more about that and any style i can, but eventually i’d love to get to the stage where i can do a lot of custom work, it would mean so much to have people coming to me to get my artwork done cos they love it, i can’t think of any more of an honor

Still talking traditional tattooing, what are your thoughts on the resurgence of it?

I love it, the thing is there’s a whole new generation of artists discovering the history and the early masters and the real pioneers of the craft, i think to really thrive in this business you have to educate yourself on the roots, the historical context and the techniques and traditions – Like i said i’m a fan of bold line and bright colour so i can’t help but be attracted to traditional style, i do suppose like with any culture there are ‘fads’, things come in and out of style but traditional is called traditional for a reason. There are so many amazing artists doing it so well i dont think it’ll go out of style, plus ‘Traditional’ is a varied genre e.g. American Traditional, Neo-Traditional etc., you can lump so many different artists into that style but they all bring something different to the table.

Rose Whittaker,thslfe

Good point, it’s refreshing hearing from people that want to get in to tattooing that actually give a fuck about the history and the old masters, it seems that there are so many “kitchen wizards” out there today buying a “gun”(jokes) off ebay and instantly becoming a “tattooist”, what are you thoughts on that, and further more, what effect do you think it has on the entire industry and art?

Haha ‘kitchen wizards’ amazing. Well wow this is a huge question.*Ahem* this is gonna be an epic essay….
Long story short it fucks me’ off big time, the reason ive spent the past 4 years painting every day and doing as much research as i can is because i wanted to get my art to a level where i wouldn’t feel like a fool showing my work to people, so it annoys me insanely that some people think that they can scratch up their friends without a care in the world or any respect for the industry and the craft.

I do think though that these people wont last long, soon enough they’ll give up, give someone Hep C, or get punched out for tattooing a sacred heart that looks like a steak on someone! I don’t think the truely talented people in the industry need to worry about anything, as its obvious what good art is, plus if you truely want a good tattoo you should do your research and a person covered in shit tattoos is usually a fucking idiot anyway, it’s like a calling card haha.

However, there is a flip side. This industry is very very hard to get into, this is one of the reasons why i love it as if you want to do it well you have to prove yourself, i can to a certain degree understand someone who will get a home set up and start practicing, but you have to make sure you know what your doing, and getting a shit kit off Ebay is definitely not knowing what your doing!! I will admit i do have a home set up, but all the equipment has been got for me by a very good tattooist friend of mine (hi Dan!) who taught me how to do it all properly, I havent tattooed anyone but myself and him, but yes if your really serious about becoming a tattooist then put the hard work in, shit tattooists are a dime a dozen. Plus no one wants to be burdened with the guilt of giving someone aids or a terrible tattoo!

And to what extent do you think certain, “reality” and i say that with all the sarcasm you could ever imagine, tv shows have effected people wanting to be an instant rockstar tattooer?What are your thoughts on the shows?

Haha ‘reality’ is definitely not the word to describe those shows! I don’t know about you but i’ve never been in a tattoo shop and heard someone say ‘My hamster died, tattoo it on me’ and start weeping which the tattooist questioned them in detail about their intimate relationship with said hamster – Anyway, again these shows are a double edged sword. On the one hand some of the people on them are very talented and have been doing it for years and thus make it look easy, and therefore idiots think they too can do they same and they just might get on tv. But at the same time and speaking from personal experience, my mother and some of my family have really learnt to respect the industry and what i want to do, if someone who has no idea about tattooing watches one of those shows they may find themselves actually realizing that custom work takes skill and that they don’t have to just pick a tattoo off the wall – So yes its a blessing and a curse really, but if you wanna be a ‘rockstar’ then be a rockstar…I just wanna draw everyday.
Rose Whittaker,thslfe

You touched on this in your previous statement a little, I guess you could say Tattoo’s have become accepted in today’s society, possibly even expected, you know every kid when they are 18 now thinks, “what sort of tattoo should i get”. What do you think about that?

They are a lot more acceptable to some people but there is still a bit of a stigma attached, i don’t know if you’ve seen a piece i did with ‘My Grandma says Tattoos are for Sailors and Prostitutes’ well that is actually what my grandma thinks, she doesnt know i have any! Haha, to keep the peace i cover them up! I know i shouldn’t but that generation sometimes dont really understand. I do think that if you care about being ‘original’ in this day and age then dont get a tattoo! But there is a difference between having one and being heavily tattooed, if an 18 year old kid wants to get one then what the hell, it’s money in the bank!

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Like i said if your serious about it and wanna be covered then do your research and you’ll fall in love with it, plus if your 18 and stupid enough to get your throat/neck/hands done without a job which allows you to do so then your in idiot and more fool you.

Well said.

Haha thanks…You can always tell a fucking retard, they’ve made it easier now by making it even more obvious from a distance

I want to see some of these kids in 15 years, when their shitty band has broken up, tattoos aren’t “cool” any more and no shop will ever employ them, it kind of pisses me off seeing all these kids with two sleeves and neck and hand pieces before they are 20. I guess it’s like a race for them, “The more ink i have, the cooler i must be.”

Exactly, i really do wonder sometimes what all these people at conventions do for work, surely there cant be many jobs in which you can work with a gnarly thoat piece of a skull eating a baby!
I’ve been working as a PA in an office for the past 2 years, wearing a suit to work! Most of the people i work with have no idea im tattooed at all, its quite amusing.

What’s in your pockets right now?

I’m actully wearing a towel cos i literally got out of the shower! Haha, weren’t expecting that were you?!
But as a rule, Lighter, Lip Balm, probably spare change and keys.

Rose Whittaker,thslfe

Backing it up, you mentioned you’re into punk rock, what else is pumping through your speakers?

God im into everything but the one band and album i listen to everyday without fail that saves my life and makes me realize everythings gonna be ok is Modern Life is War – Witness, im actually working on a huge piece based on that band, its been a work in progress for a while, but yeah i love everything music inspires me to paint…I’m currently listening to Fugazi and may put on some Nick Cave in a bit, oh im also working on some 80’s hardcore punk rock flash sheets which i’ll have for sale at Liverpool tattoo convention, i’m helping my friend Dan from King Arthurs tattoo on the stall so im gonna be selling prints etc.

What artists do you look to for inspiration?

Oh so so many, well i’ll start with all the amazing people who have tattooed me, they are a constant inspiration..Alison Manners, Rose Hardy, Steve Byrne, Eli Quinters, Lee from Cult Classic, James Kiley, Simon Erl. The people who i wanna be tattooed by, Thomas Hooper, Valerie Vargas, Steve Boltz…Fuck there are so many! On the classic art side im a huge Francis Bacon fan, i love the old masters like Caravaggio, basically anything religious an epic!

Rose Whittaker,thslfe

You’ve been tattooed by some incredible artists.

I spent 2 years bumming around the world picking up tattoos along the way!

Speaking of the world, i guess, depending on how wide it is you open your eyes and ears, that there are some pretty fucked up things happening, what are your thoughts and opinions on the world and society today?

Wow another endless question i could talk on for ages! Haha well…The world is a fucked up place, and human beings are basically a virus with shoes (as Bill Hicks said) we are selfish, hypocrites, liars and basically inherently evil..Well the majority are but there are so many good people on this tiny planet of ours and i only have time for the good ones, without my friends i am nothing and i will do anything i can for them. I try to keep out of ‘society’ as a whole, i hate social networking but have become strangely addicted to facebook of all things! I watch the news every night (not shit CNN as thankfully our media isn’t as manipulated as most!)  as i think its important to realize whats going on and it keeps me strangely grounded, i came to realize along time ago that we are very insignificant and very few individuals have the power to make any kind of significant change. However if you’re a good person and your good to people then hopefully it’ll all balance out….Oh and organized religion is the single most destructive force out there, the cause of the most needless deaths and pain so i keep away from that shit as much as i can…’i dont have a problem with God, its his
fan base i cant stand’.

God you’ve asked a complicated question! Haha it would take me a million years to answer it and i still wouldn’t have said it all!

Yeah it scares a lot of people off, but i try to encourage people to speak their minds, we are fed enough shit every day, a little bit of truth is refreshing.

Long story short, do what makes you happy as long as you’re not hurting anyone. Human beings suck, but just try not to suck as much as most of them.
I do count myself lucky living in such a socialist society, having travelled around America and seeing how much bullshit is talked about socialism is hilarious, i honestly can’t see how you can have an objection to free healthcare for all?!

Well, a lot can be said for America and its happenings.

It’s an amazing place and the people are so lovely and generous, which did kinda come as a surpirse. I did have a bit of a stigma when i went there but watching the TV and seeing the total bullshit they’re fed in the media make you realize  it’s no surprise at all some of them think the way they do, if you’re constantly brainwashed with lies everyday then its easy to believe certain things, but yeah America is just awesome, i’d love to live there for a bit someday.

Rose Whittaker,thslfe

Where else have you travelled?Did you notice a lot of difference in the tattoo scenes from country to country?

Well i did the usual backpacker route of Asia and Australia.

Thailand’s tattoo scene ranges from the super traditional hand poking too the little shops in the tourist parts which aren’t always up to the biggest hygiene standards! I spent a year in Oz, mainly in the wonderous Brisbane, or Brisvagas or Brisneyland haha, there i met the fantastic Alison Manners who i am thankful enough to call a good friend, she tattooed me loads, we hung out and she generally looked after me and opened my eyes to the fact that i could tattoo.

She’s such a great lady so headstrong and shes works so hard i have the upmost respect for her, through her i met the lovely Miss Rose Hardy and loads of other artists who one day i’ll come back and get work done by.
Last year i did a huge road trip with my best friend around America and Canada which was one of the best experiences ever, i got tattooed at Smith Street in Brooklyn by Eli Quinters and also stuck my head in the door or Brookyln and New York adorned, all incredible shops with mindblowing artists, thankfully i have a good friend Alex  in brooklyn so i’ll be back to visit sooon..Also Canada has a really really great tattooing scene, Sacred Heart in Vancouver is where i got a little something done by a very talented young artist called Scummy Dan…But yeah i have so many more places to travel and so many more artists to hunt down!

On the subject of travelling, what are five things you always take with you on your travels?

Sketch book and pens, camera, clean underwear, toothbrush and ipod! Oh and also a smile haha cheesy, but you would be surprised how far common courtesy can get you, being polite doesn’t take much!

What advice would you give to any other aspiring tattooists?


If you love it and wanna do it that much then put the work in, plus show people your stuff, don’t go in an ask for an apprenticeship straight off, get some criticism first. No one likes to hear it but take it on board and hopefully it’ll make you work harder, i’m still an aspiring tattooist so i shouldn’t be giving advice really!

Let’s rap it up with a word association, you know the deal, say whatever comes to your mind when you read the word.

Religion – Pointless
Time – Never Enough
Greed – Evil
Humanity – Too Human
Peace – A dream
Freedom – Idealistic
Tattooing – Love
Art – Life
Life  -Art
Happiness – Tattooing!And Cake!

Last words and shout outs?

Can i do a shout out to my Mum, Brother and Family, Dan, all my hometown heros and my new London crew innit bruv!

Rose Whittaker,thslfe

Girl Skateboards pro riders

Sorry i took so long to get these pics up, i have no excuse other than that im a lazy bastard. enjoy.

Eric Koston

Alex Olsen

Rick Howard

Brian Anderson

Sean Malto

New kid on the block

Yo! So the the head honcho’s at thslfe have just recruited me to help out with predominantly skateboarding adventures and hopefully a few good yarns with the locals here in sunny Canberra too. This is my first post so fingers crossed it works out alright…
Ill start off with some photos taken from the the recent Girl skateboarding team demo at Eddison park. Here are some of the locals ill hopefully get the pros up tomorrow. Stay classy.

TTB Updates..

It’s definitely been a while since there’s been any news on what the fuck it is the kids of the 2666 have been doing, though by the looks of things they’ve been holding it down!

Tom was off the bike for a while as he fried his engine, normal humanoids would lose form after such an event, not Tom – Suss these pics for proof that he is anything but a human.

Daniel Evans has stepped shit right up photography wise and his pics are really beginning to come together – Props dude!

Dean as usual is suceeding at life, as are the other skate rats – Enough of my mindless dribble, check the pics!

Oh yeah, if some of the phot’s look blurry, it’s because imageshack does something to them and they come out looking fucked.